Some games have epic, sweeping plots that could easily have been made into an action Miniseries or fantasy novel instead of a game. Others just seem to have a plot because people feel a little silly doing things for no reason, even if the real reason they're playing is because it's fun.
An Excuse Plot is, in the simplest terms, a plot that is clearly there merely as a justification for the gameplay, or other form of flashy, show-offy-ness, to happen. In short, the story serves the needs of the gameplay, nothing more. It makes no pretense of intrinsic value, but simply provides some banter so you understand why the purple and non-purple units are shooting at each other.
Excuse plots, as implied thus far, are most common among video games. In most cases, fun gameplay comes first, and from there, many developers don't see the need for an intricate narrative. This was especially true in the early days of the medium, where system limitations meant a detailed plot would bear significant trade-offs. As a result, this set a baseline for the industry where, in most genres, storytelling isn't a high priority, unless the game brands itself around the story. However, excuse plots are far from unique to the medium. A movie may be a bunch of gags strung together by a barebones narrative. A cartoon may be a nine minute fight scene with a minute on each end for setup and resolution. A porn work is most likely to have a paper-thin scenario to set up the sex (to the point of it being considered exceptional for a porn work to attempt a substantial story); similarly, an ecchi series may have a flimsy premise that's clearly an excuse to cram in as much fanservice as possible.
A potential disadvantage of including a half-assed plot (as opposed to no plot at all) is that, poorly executed, it can drag the rest of the work down. Missing story beats could make the product seem unpolished, while a particularly bad plot could break immersion. However, many creators either do not consider these risks, think they are insignificant, or find the structure and context an Excuse Plot provides to be worth it.
An Excuse Plot is not necessarily a poorly written, minimalistic, or stupid storyline, only one that has been written to obviously showcase something else. These are typically featured in works targeted at children and families, as a complex storyline may be deemed too much for an average child to understand. Beware of the Anthropic Principle.
If you want to know how to write your own excuse plot, we've got you covered.
A Super-Trope to Save the Princess (rescue a kidnapped person, usually a princess)
A Sister Trope to No Plot? No Problem! (not even bothering with plot at all).
- Come for the X, Stay for the Y
- Dancing Bear
- Just Here for Godzilla (the plot is to set up the main attraction)
- Pizza Boy Special Delivery (a porn movie's excuse plot)
- Beach Episode (like the above, usually just an excuse for skimpy swimwear)
- Random Events Plot (This happens, and then that happens...)
Contrast Play the Game, Skip the Story (the plot is deep, but the players see it as an excuse).
- The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: While the series has Rentarou actively avoid breaking his girlfriends' hearts, the whole "if your soulmates are heartbroken after meeting them, they'll die" clause that led to him going above and beyond for them only threatens to fulfill itself when Hakari attempts suicide when her mother tries to end her relationship with Rentarou. And if a girlfriend does initially reject Rentarou, it's either because they haven't gotten shocked yet, because they're fighting their feelings and will give into them later, or because it turns out they secretly like being hurt.
- Girls und Panzer: Oarai Girls Academy is going to close unless they win a tournament of tank battles. That's it. It is just an excuse to give a reason for the spectacular battles that make up the vast majority of the series and film.
- To Love Ru: OVA 3's plot simply consists of girls going on holiday to a private resort. The episode mainly consists of constant Fanservice.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The plot of Stardust Crusaders is easily summarized: Mum has a curse, find and kill DIO to save her. Have fun watching Jotaro and company travel around the world and kicking the arses of several increasingly bizarre opponents.
- Keijo!!!!!!!! revolves around the intense fighting sport of Keijo—essentially, it is a king of the hill-esque sport where you fight to be the only one left standing on a platform. Only other rules: only women can compete, because the only part of your body allowed to come in contact with your opponents is either your breast or your buttocks.
- Azul's theme of you being a tile laying artist mostly serves as an excuse for the gameplay and the decoration of the playing pieces.
- The Cheapass Games board game Devil Bunny Needs A Ham has a story, which, in all seriousness, goes as follows: "You and your friends are living pleasant and full lives in Happyville. You are highly trained and well-paid sous-chefs, who have decided to climb to the top of a tall building, as fast as you can. Devil Bunny needs a ham. And he's pretty sure that knocking you off the building will help him get one. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps he is not."
- The Excuse Plot for Fight City is about as short as you're going to get. "It's a city, and they fight."
- Steam Tunnel couldn't even stay interested enough to finish its excuse: "In the year 2185, in the steam-driven titanium mine deep under the surface of Io... oh, who are we kidding. Steam Tunnel is a great game with no particular basis in reality."
- Clue's plot is essentially - "Mister Boddy (or Dr Black) is dead. Find out whodunnit." There is no explanation of who Mister Boddy (or even Dr Black) is, why would anyone want to kill him, or who the guests are and why they're at the mansion. Various other ports DO list motives, but they're all contradictory (and none of them tell us who he is).
- Candyland has a backstory about the King being kidnapped by Lord Licorice and only two children from our world being able to find him, with gingerbread men (the playing pieces) acting as guides. Even as a child, did any of this matter when you were actually playing the game? No.
- Civil War, according to Word of God from Mark Millar. He just really wanted to write a story about people who were typically on the same side beating the tar out of each other, and the Super Registration Act was just a convenient backdrop he came up with to allow this to happen. Any and all political subtext was completely unintentional.
- The sequel, Civil War II, had an even more transparent excuse plot. Organized so that Marvel could crowd comic store shelves with new books that said "Civil War" on the cover just as the MCU version of the original hit theaters, the event used unbelievably flimsy justifications to turn hero against hero yet again. The arbitrariness of the entire conflict was one major reason (albeit not the only one) that fans reviled it.
- Red Ears: In this pornographic comic book series every plot is just an excuse to showcase sex scenes.
- Similarly, every story in Wally Wood's Sally Forth was an excuse to feature sexy naked women to entertain the US servicemen reading them.
- Mortadelo y Filemón: The comics usually have extremely thin plots that just function to place the characters in random settings or situations, and then let slapstick ensue. Usually Mortadelo and Filemón's investigations do not advance one iota over the course of one story until the very ending, and often another agent will solve the case, or it turns out there was no case to solve at all.
- The French gag series Les Astromômes begins with Quentin getting his friend Rodrigue's sister Lise to notice him, by claiming that he's interested in astronomy like she is. The antics that ensue from this initial premise are essentially a framing device used to teach the readers about various astronomy facts.
- A rather unfortunate use of Rape by Proxy was used as an excuse for the New 52 Red Robin and Wonder Girl to start a relationship when the New 52 Teen Titans author revealed that evidently Tim, Cassie and Kiran enjoyed being raped by Trigon when he was possessing Tim. Note that prior to Flashpoint Tim turned down sex with his various girlfriends on multiple occasions and was canonically a virgin due to his complete non desire for casual or emotionally compromised sex, wanting to be in a very serious and committed relationship before even considering it.
- In Asterix in Switzerland, the album's plot (Asterix having to retrieve a Silver Star/Edelweiss flower as a cure for a poisoned Roman tax auditor) is just an excuse to make as many jokes about France's alpine neighbor as possible.
- A Wattpad fanfic called "Mega crossover" has an extremely thin plot. It's mostly just "Villain OC keeps sending random cartoon characters into different dimensions, and stuff happens as a result". The heroes spend most of their time trying to either find their way home, or find something that the villain OC took from them.
- The author of Origin Story has admitted that he wrote this story primarily because he “wanted to give Tony Stark a punch in the mouth” after reading Marvel's Civil War story.
- This trope spawned a meme in the Touhou Project fandom when when a doujin manga brought to attention the fact that the plot of nearly any and all fanworks could be summed up as variations of four Fandom Specific Justifications:
- Magic: Magic in Touhou is not particularily well defined, so it can be used to justify anything that needs to be justified.
- Eirin's shady new drug: Eirin is able to make unusual medicines of dubious pharmaceutical benefit and with nearly any bizarre effect imaginable. Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth, generally considered canon, uses this explanation.
- Yukari is fooling around again: Yukari is extremely powerful, extremely lazy, and extremely capricious; the plots just write themselves.
- It's a Moriya Shrine conspiracy: After their introduction in Mountain of Faith, the next three "main" games in the series (Subterranean Animism, Unidentified Fantastic Object, and Ten Desires) were either directly or indirectly caused by the Moriya trio's attempts to gather more faith from the population of Gensoukyou. Suffice to say, fanon took it and ran with it.
- Templates like that are forbidden: In the doujin manga where the above list appeared in, Marisa says this in response to the above possible explanations behind the doujin's own plot. In more comedic stories, this has occasionally been used as an actual excuse for the plot.
- According to the author of Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness, he wrote the story with the sole intent of having Megas fight against Suika Ibuki. In a twist on the above justifications, Megas's placement in Gensokyo was the fault of the Watatsuki sisters; Yukari's involvement was accidental at best.
- The entirety of Skyhold Academy Yearbook was basically created to give its authors the opportunity to do ridiculous things with Dragon Age characters that could not logically happen in the game's actual setting, such as riding motorcycles and watching Disney movies.
- The Infinite Loops: The basic premise is that some vague catastrophe has happened to Yggdrasil, the World Tree computer that contains and runs the multiverse. As a result, the various universes have been put in 'safe mode', time-looping until Yggdrasil can be repaired. What this means is that various characters from any series you care to name might be Awake and aware of the loops, running through their own universe countless times, exploring bizarre variants, or crossing over with other series. It's all a shameless excuse to watch a bunch of bored immortals play with impossible powers in weird situations, but it works very well for that.
- Surprisingly, despite his acclaim as a master storyteller and his legendary reputation for having anal-retentive attention to detail in his films, Walt Disney firmly believed in using the Excuse Plot in both his short cartoons and feature films, from as early as his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons up to the end of his life with The Jungle Book. To him, gags based on character motivation and context and entertainment were what really mattered. Two of his top animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, verify this early in their book "Too Funny For Words: Disney's Greatest Sight Gags";
"At that time, however, even the distributors were questioning whether gags were enough to sustain a whole film and they started asking for more story. Walt, the greatest of storytellers, reacted in a surprising way. 'By the time you have a story really started,' he said, 'it is time to iris out (end the picture), and you have failed to make the audience laugh.' Obviously, in Walt's mind, the first priority in any film was the laughter, and too much story quickly became tedious. He never forgot that point throughout his whole life, constantly shying away from projects that had more continuity than entertainment."
- Disney's The Jungle Book is acclaimed as a legitimate animated feature classic, even though its plot is a wafer thin, In Name Only adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's story. Walt Disney specifically told the story artists to not read or follow the book, and even chewed them out when they had concerns over the simplistic story, saying the characters and entertainment were more important. Animator and story artist Floyd Norman, who worked on the film, summed it up on his blog:
"With Pixar's string of successful movies it became popular among animation buffs to quote the familiar mantra, story, story, story. But, I remember it was no less than Walt Disney himself who chewed us out back during the development of 'The Jungle Book.' Because we thought we had legitimate concerns about the films' simple plot line. Well, we caught the wrath of the Old Maestro head on. 'You guys worry too much about the story,' Walt shouted. 'Just give me some good stuff.' And, what was that good stuff Walt Disney was talking about, you ask? Fun, humor, entertainment. In a word, Walt was speaking of gags. 'The Jungle Book' didn't need a more involved story line because we already had great characters to work with. Let the humor come out of the situation, the characters, and the story will take care of itself."
- Yellow Submarine has a plot, but it's clearly only there as an excuse to fit as many Beatles songs as possible into one movie.
- Georges Méliès, being a magician interested in illusions, was really more interested creating a visual spectacle. The "plot" of films such as his famous A Trip to the Moon mainly served to provide a context for his then-revolutionary special effects.
- The Warner Bros. Gold Diggers movies, such as Gold Diggers of 1933, had wafer thin plots that were always just setups for the fantastic and elaborate musical numbers and gorgeous dancers that make up the bulk of the films. The back of the DVD case of Gold Diggers of 1937 even hangs a lampshade on this, trying earnestly to summarize the plot at first, only to give up halfway through and say "Well, who watches any Diggers for its plot?"
- Commando. Not unexpected being that it's part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger oeuvre, but a particularly notable example — the movie doesn't even pretend it's going to have anything to do with the whole "kill the Prime Minister / President / whatever of Val Verde to get your daughter back" stuff. This has the rather amusing result that pretty much every scene with Arius before the climax basically involves him sitting around waiting for Matrix to show up and kill him even if he doesn't realize it.
- Into the Blue has a plot (if you can call it that) that's basically an excuse to look at Jessica Alba/Paul Walker/Ashley Scott/Scott Caan (delete according to taste) wearing as little as humanly possible.
- EuroTrip involves the protagonist sending a drunken email and being unable to apologize because the recipient blocks his email address. Conveniently forgetting about the dozens of other ways to get in touch with someone, he sets off to Europe to apologize in person. Hilarity ensues. A large portion of the film consists of sketches that would work just as well on their own and out of context, so the overarching plot being rather thin is not a real problem.
- Ju-Rei has no beginning, middle, or end; it's just a progression of loosely-linked suspense sequences based around the same completely unexplained ghostly curse.
- Mercenaries has four Boxed Crook women being offered pardons if they can rescue the president's daughter from a man-hating warlord. That's really all you need to know.
- Pacific Rim is little more than an excuse to watch giant robots fighting giant monsters, and makes precisely zero apologies for it. Though it’s also worth noting that even then, it does also contain plenty of subtle themes from Del Toro's prior films (Hellboy (2004) and The Devil's Backbone) as can be noted here.
Guillermo del Toro: It is my duty to commit to film the finest fucking monsters ever committed to screen and it is my duty to create the greatest fucking robots ever committed to screen.
- What rudimentary plot the first half of Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) has just serves as an excuse for the second half, the epic 42-minute car chase that was the very reason why the film was made in the first place.
- Pixels are pretty much a tribute to 80's video games and as such doesn't have much going for it when it comes to the plot.
- It's long been theorized that the only reason Adam Sandler still makes movies is so that he and his friends can hang out in nice locales and have the studios pay for it. He's even admitted that he chooses what films he wants to make based on where he wants to go on vacation.
- There's no particular reason for Billy and Abby to pretend that they're brother and sister in Days of Heaven—they could just as well say that they are married. No particular reason, that is, except for the plot, in which a good-hearted farmer falls in love with Abby and takes them both in to his home under the impression that Billy is Abby's brother.
- John Wick has a plot that essentially amounts to "Retired assassin's wife gets him a dog and dies, members of the mafia kill it, he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge." The film does take it surprisingly seriously for something so ridiculous, including him going on a rant about how the dog was something to share his grief with. It works better than it should, but ultimately it's still just an excuse for Keanu Reeves to go and murder everyone.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail is effectively a series of skits. There's a plot stringing them together, but it's not particularly important.
- In-Universe, the Jumanji video game (a Show Within a Show) in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle provides a standard example — the Big Bad has captured the MacGuffin! — as the game is meant to replicate those of the 80's and 90's. The movie itself as has a fuller plot.
- In most Ray Harryhausen films, the plot only exists to put the fabulous stop motion monster scenes in some sort of order.
- Singin' in the Rain has a plot which mostly serves as an excuse to string together hilariously over-the-top performances of old pop songs.
- Thank Your Lucky Stars: The very slight story has Tommy and Pat trying to make it in show business, two impresarios trying to get Dinah Shore into the Cavalcade of Stars benefit show, and Eddie Cantor getting impersonated by an Identical Stranger. This is really just an excuse to have a whole bunch of musical numbers and guest appearances from almost every star contracted to Warner Brothers in 1942.
- Bangkok Knockout was designed to show off several promising new stuntworkers in interesting fights. The underlying plot that they're in a Deadly Game, let alone the opening premise that they're competing to join a stunt team, is entirely secondary to the individual fights, and the inserted attempts at drama via flashback add very little to the plot.
- Most movies where the plot is started by a Zombie Apocalypse provide a vague explanation for the whole zombies thing (a science experiment, a virus, a science experiment that accidentally created a virus, etc.) One notable example is The Dead Don't Die, where the dead are rising from their graves because the planet’s axis was thrown off by polar fracking. You know, science.
- The Wee Sing series of children's videos tend to have very loose plots – usually amounting to "some average kids are transported to a fantastical place, where they have fun and learn An Aesop or two with an array of colorful characters." They're mainly excuses to sing lots of classic children's songs. A few installments are more plot-driven than the others, though: for example, the Saving Christmas plot of The Best Christmas Ever and the Fair-Play Whodunnit mystery in The Marvelous Musical Mansion.
- UHF is apparently about George trying to keep a TV station afloat, but that's really just an excuse to string together a bunch of skits parodying other movies and TV shows.
- Most parody films tend to have these — though the better films, like anything from Mel Brooks or Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, will at least try to integrate the jokes and plot somewhat, but even then it mostly serves as a method to make fun of the conventions of the genre they're parodying.
- The Princess: While the film does try to flesh out the situation and backstory of Princess during her rampage down the tower with flashbacks and some incidental dialogue, it mostly serves to justify why she can fight so well, as well as provide some context for the situation. Otherwise, the film is merely an excuse to see a string of creative, well choreographed, action scenes.
- Animorphs #44, The Unexpected, creates a story where Cassie is knocked out during a battle and winds up on a plane to Australia. Among the fandom, it's semi-seriously assumed that this whole plot was contrived just because Scholastic wanted a book with a kangaroo on the cover.
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time: The plot of the novel revolves around Christopher trying to find out who killed the dog Wellington. However, the only plot developments come in the first and last few chapters; most of the book consists of The Catcher in the Rye-esque ramblings and detailed descriptions of mundane, unrelated events.
- The Maze Runner is about a group of amnesiac youths trapped in the middle of a gigantic, mysterious, dangerous, shifting maze, who explore it and try to figure out what's going on. Finally, they find out that the world has been ravaged by a pandemic, and the local Mega-Corp has built the maze because making young potentials run through a giant maze somehow can make them develop a cure for the virus in their bodies. While the later parts really take the pandemic thing as the basis of their plots, in the first one, it's just a weird excuse for the exciting maze mystery.
- Moby-Dick is nominally about Ahab's quest to hunt the titular whale. However, most of the book focuses less on the actual plot and more on detailed explorations of the history, science, and philosophy relating to whaling, much of which is also used as metaphorical commentary on human society.
- The Rising of the Shield Hero deconstructs the concept; because they see Melromarc and the world around it as nothing but a consequence-free video game world with a cliché "Save the world!" plot, Ren, Itsuki, and Motoyasu see the whole "Summoned To Another World" thing as an excuse to indulge in their personal fantasies, especially Itsuki's hero complex and Motoyasu's harem fantasies. However, especially from Naofumi's point of view, it becomes increasingly obvious that there is much more to the world than "Save the world and reap the benefits", as Naofumi himself winds up suffering due to events that occurred long before he was summoned. While he prospers regardless, partly by understanding and accepting just how real the world is enough to ask questions, investigate it's extensive history and actively study things that'll prove useful in the long run, the other three heroes end up causing problems due to the fact that they expect to succeed through the bare minimum amount of effort, refuse to think critically beyond what several obviously shady people tell them, leaving easily avoided disasters in their wake in the process and leaving the civilians to see them as just plain inept.
- Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online isn't an example in and of itself, but the game Gun Gale Online takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that's basically an excuse to have deathmatches between characters. In Volume 6, the Test Play Tournament has an excuse plot about reclaiming a WMD from a terrorist group. Since almost all of humanity has been wiped out, the main characters point out the plot doesn't really make sense, and make fun of the novelist who proposed it.
- In earlier seasons of The Red Green Show, there was generally an over-reaching plot that they tried to work into every segment of the show in some manner or another. In latter seasons, this practice was dropped, with the main plot of the episode only appearing in a few segments and otherwise being kept out of the recurring sketches like "North of 40" or "Handyman Corner." One of the most notable instances was the "No Duct Tape" episode, in which Red was still seen using duct tape in such segments, even though the plot of the episode was that Possum Lodge had run out of duct tape.
- The Channel 4 hidden camera series Bad Robots has an excuse plot at the beginning explaining that the malfunctioning electronics in the pranks were created by a robot who gained sentience to punish humans for mistreating their electrical appliances. No story progression after that.
- Into the Badlands: The whole post-apocalyptic Feudal Future with no guns allowed is really just an excuse to have a Western Wuxia series.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 has a setup involving a guy trapped on a space station with some robots, and he's the guinea pig in a mad psychological experiment where his captors try to drive him insane by forcing him to watch bad movies. It's really just an excuse to have a guy and two puppets watch bad movies and add funny commentary. The theme song actively discourages you from thinking about the plot at all.
- Only Fools and Horses: In-universe example. When Rodney in one episode has been given funding to put together a short film Del comes up with an idea for a film called "There's a Rhino loose in the city". The plot turns out completely nonsensical and falls apart under the slightest questioning, involving a Rhino escaping from a Zoo and hiding in a lock-up garage in London then a Health Food Store while trampling people to death at night. It turns out eventually Del is just pushing this plot as he knows someone with a cheap Rhinoceros costume. Ironically at the end it turns out Rodney is apparently hoping to use this plot.
- Supergirl (2015) and The Flash (2014) had a crossover where an In Name Only Music Meister shows up and whammies the two titular characters to force a musical episode and let the Arrowverse's cast full of musical geniuses go nuts.
- The Bible: The Book of Job and all the terrible things that happen to its titular protagonist are one big allegory meant to answer why bad things happen to good people and vice versa, with a whopping 30 chapters (give or take) spent on an argument where Job tried to justify to his friends why his life sucks now even though he's done nothing to deserve it.
- Atari's Hercules, which was an excuse to build a REALLY BIG pinball machine.
- Pro Pinball: The Web has a motorcycle rider who has to stop a woman out to Take Over the World with an army of spiders. You do this by racing bikes, stopping a shuttle, raiding skyscrapers, and other odd tasks... don't ask, just go with it.
- Averted with Doctor Who, which has a very detailed (relative to most pinball games) plot involving The Master and Davros teaming up to use a "Time Expander" to destroy all incarnations of The Doctor. Unfortunately, much of it was All There in the Manual, which made it very difficult for casual players to learn the game.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Data East) is rather egregious in this regard - it all boils down to "rescue April". The much later Stern game downplays it, as while the game's premise similarly boils down to "stop various members of the Turtles' Rogues Gallery", some of the primary modes end by setting up the premise of another mode (such as Krang getting his robotic body or Baxter Stockman being mutated). As a result, completing the former is a requirement for being able to start the latter.
- Flash is ostensibly about a Thunder God throwing lightning bolts, which is all an excuse to show off the table's (then-new) flash lamps.
- Similarly, Firepower is about three spaceships attacking an alien warworld, which is an excuse for its multiball feature (the first solid state pinball game to feature one).
- Crüe Ball never explains what the relationship is between playing pinball and playing loud Heavy Metal music.
- In Necronomicon, studying a Tome of Eldritch Lore is done by... playing pinball?
- Time Cruise has a backstory about a young inventor who is instructed by telepathic extraterrestrials on how to build a Time Machine. The game itself is a pinball game spread across several "buildings" (screens) with various minigames.
- Similarly, Time Machine (Data East) uses time travel as an excuse for the game to use its old-fashioned electro-mechanical chimebox when the player reaches The '50s.
- Flash Dragon doesn't even try to explain what dragons and photography have to do with each other.
- Strange Science has a backstory about a Mad Scientist and his "Freaky Friday" Flip experiment, but the actual gameplay does little to build on the story.
- Time Fantasy has... something to do with an anthropomorphic snail accumulating time while meditating in a psychedelic landscape of mushrooms and rainbows.
- Embryon has the player incubate multicolored alien women from organic pods.
- What does TX-Sector have to do with teleporters? Good luck figuring it out.
- The entirety of Centaur's story is told to you in two words when you begin a game: "Destroy Centaur."
- Black Knight and its sequel 2000 straddle the line between this and No Plot? No Problem! - both only have the premise of the player challenging the titular Black Knight (with the latter spelling it out more explicitly in song). Meanwhile, Sword of Rage less ambiguously falls into this, with the instruction card summing up the entirety of its plot:
"The Black Knight and his minions are invading your lands. Use your sword to defeat him, his SKELETON ARMY, his EVIL ALLIES, and BURN his CASTLE!"
- Elvira's House of Horrors: Elvira is trying to rid her Haunted House of various characters from old B-movies before selling it, and you must help her return them to their original films.
- In Dialed In!, the Player Character receives a smartphone running on atomic energy that can control natural disasters created by a shady company that wants to take it back. While the game shows this much in the Attract Mode (and in a comic book that can be found online), it mostly serves as set dressing for the game itself, save for a few modes dedicated to said shady company attacking you. Notably, the player character has no given motivation for activating such devastating disasters.
- Total Nuclear Annihilation has a similarly threadbare plot about Scarlett (a woman in an '80s-inspired post-apocalyptic future) causing several nuclear reactors to overload. Her motivation for doing so goes unexplained. It becomes particularly glaring if you manage to destroy all nine reactors, as the game subtly emphasizes the destruction you've wrought by ending the game completely — after all, "total nuclear annihilation" includes yourself.
- Promotional material for Rush (2022) summarizes the game's plot as simply "travel back in time alongside Rush," a thin premise largely used to justify the use of concert footage and umpteen references to the band's back catalog.
- FunHouse: Rudy's Nightmare: The premise, as established by the manual, is very rudimentary — Rudy's having nightmares and needs to conquer them (as well as his own evil self) to wake up.
- There was a popular Planescape module called The Great Modron March where the event in the title begins decades before it is supposed to, and the PCs are supposed to help the modrons. They'll probably never learn just why the event is happening early, and there are a variety of hooks as to what motivation they have (like being hired as bodyguards by people interested in it) but Word of God admitted that the real reason the PCs are going to want to help the modrons is because it's just so cool. (And admittedly, it is.) Of course, the actual reason was somewhat serious, but it was part of a plot of a different module (which could be used as a sequel to this one if the PCs do find out. Primus, the ruler of the modrons, had been murdered, and his throne usurped by a "mysterious shadowy entity" who ordered the March early to search for something. The entity was actually Orcus in his guise as the undead demon Tenebrous, who was trying to find his Wand. Orcus' return became the main plot of the epic two-part module Dead Gods.
- The plot of Battletech, feudal nobles in space fighting wars with Humongous Mecha, seems intended to create a situation to justify the use of mechs in warfare. But then the writers went into why they use mechs to conquer planets (instead of say, nukes), how they can conquer an entire planet with just a few mechs, and how the wars got started, plus the need to introduce new factions. And it all snowballed into a complete Expanded Universe.
- The plot of Star Realms: You want a space empire, destroy the other player to do so.
- The backstory for Gorkamorka mostly exists to facilitate the players' warbands driving around in the desert beating each other up.
- Monsterpocalypse has a backstory and Character Alignment system that mostly exists to justify having giant robots slam Cthulhu through the Empire State Building while a Martian tripod steps on downtown Tokyo in order to more effectively fight a giant radioactive bug.
- Cats revolves around a tribe of... well, cats, all attempting to make their case as to why they and they alone should enter the Heaviside Layer. But compared to the music and the Costume Porn, it's practically an afterthought.
- Pretty much all Cirque du Soleil shows use this. There's generally a plot, if you read the website or the program, but mostly they're simple excuses to put together a bunch of acrobatic acts. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; they're really good acrobatic acts.
- In Gioachino Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims, the story in a nutshell is as follows: People prepare to go to the coronation of Charles X but can’t make it, so they stage a concert in the king’s honour in their hotel. The whole opera consists of arias, duets and ensembles just barely connected with each other in terms of plot. But well, it’s Rossini, so the arias, duets and ensembles are gorgeous.
- While Medieval Times Dinner And Tournament does have running plotlines with each show, they mainly serve to set up The Tourney between dueling knights.
- The Play That Goes Wrong is based around an amateur drama society attempting to put on a lavish production of a forgotten 1920s murder mystery, The Murder at Havisham Manor. Of course, this is just a Show Within a Show, and the real draw is to watch the chaos unfold around the hapless dramatists as everything that can go wrong within a theatrical production does go wrong.
- Cedar Fair Entertainment:
- Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point gives a backstory of three Outlaws banding together and building a machine to get Revenge on Corrupt Mining Tycoon Maverick. Though surprisingly in-depth for Cedar Fair, this backstory is clearly backdrop for the world-class roller coaster.
- Mystic Timbers at Kings Island has a much simpler plot. There is a shed with unusual activity. Despite warning, the riders trespass anyway.
- The plot of Otoboku - Maidens Are Falling For Me is kickstarted by the death of the main character's grandfather and how the only way he will become chairman of the school is dressed in drag. Don't question how the criteria for chairman has a paradoxical clause that they must be alumni and the ethical questions that follow, all that matters is that you get a Harem disguised as Yuri.
- The subgenre of "Nukige" (抜きゲー), literally meaning "Fapping Game", is basically this with the flimsiest of plots to set-up intercourse.
- Nekopara revolves almost entirely around Cat Girls and their antics. The setting of a world where cat girls are kept as pets isn't really fleshed out much beyond that, and it's really just an excuse for cat girls to exist (and in the 18+ versions, to see sex scenes with them). When the anime adaptation aired, the series' creator begged people on Twitter not to think too hard about the premise and just enjoy the cute cat girls.
- The plot in the average episode of The Goon Show had no actual relevance to what happened, with several episodes existing simply as a 20-minute lead-up to a terrible pun.
- Gaming All-Stars: Video game characters all live together on Earth. Oh no! The villains want to capture characters in a display of power! Heroes team up and bad guys form alliances and stab each other in the back. What's this?! A Physical God has played all the other bad guys like a fiddle, traps the heroes inside the moon, and starts an apocalypse, because that is what irredeemably nasty villains do.
- For the sequel series, it's good guys allying themselves against villains who specifically want to torment humanity for the thrill of it and little else.
- Fan Film Quake the Movie: Escape from the Bastille opens with the history of the infamous Bastille of medieval Paris, revived in the distant future as a prison for alien POWs. Ultimately, however, this is not explored further and serves just as an excuse to show the warriors of Quake III: Arena fighting the Strogg from Quake II.
- Advent of Code is an online advent calendar, except instead of chocolates or holiday pictures, you open programming puzzles. Each year, there is a plot around the participant having to obtain 50 stars (usually to save Christmas in some fashion). This is, of course, an excuse in order to write code to solve puzzles.
- The Akinator website includes the "Story of Akinator" which explains just why is a genie playing "Twenty Questions" with you—not that you need to read it.
- Backloggery is a website dedicated to maintaining your video game backlog. It features a story about fighting a villain known as "Bak'Laag" who derives his power from unplayed video games (see the "instruction booklet" on the main page). It's utterly ignorable, apart from adding some silly flavorful messages throughout the website.
- The Most Stupid Deaths In Super Mario 64, mostly. No explanation is given for why Mario is doing most of the things he does (except that, of course, he's getting paid $100 per death, at least in the first episode), but the story continues anyway.
- Half in the Bag: Many episodes have some kind of plot, but they are almost always just excuses to have characters other than Mike and Jay discuss the movie in question. They usually end up getting resolved in the last minute or so in a way that leaves the status quo intact.
- Cinematic Titanic is a Spiritual Successor to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (see Live Action TV, above) and features a similarly threadbare premise. In this case, a mysterious organization has taken the cast and informed them that a "tear in the electron scaffolding" is threatening to destroy all electronic media. Somehow, the best way to neutralize the effects is for the cast to watch bad movies and make fun of them. Tellingly, when the creators adapted the concept as a live show, they didn't even bother including that plot—and then they stopped making studio episodes altogether, and just released recordings of the live show as future episodes instead.
- Markiplier's video "The Challenge Challenge" claims that all of his "challenge" videos are just an excuse to do something stupid and fun.
Tyler: No! You can't just combine an object or a word and add "Challenge" to it, and make it a challenge! That's not- That's not a challenge video!
Markiplier: Pfft! Alright, okay! What do you think we've BEEN doing? You think the pumpkin smashing challenge isn't just us having fun with a sledgehammer?
- The plot of Downton Wars is Thomas trying to kill Bates and Bates's Jedi powers fading. It's just an excuse for the cast to run around waving lightsabers at each other for charity.
- Search for Sandvich: The comically thin plot of searching for a sandwich (and later, the Medic) is clearly just an excuse for the actors to get together and have some fun playing their characters again.
- Looney Tunes never relied on anything more than very basic setups and conflicts for their stories, which went hand in hand with their fast paced slapstick comedy, which was the real meat of the cartoons entertainment. One of their directors, Chuck Jones, even explained why they did this in his biography "Chuck Amuck";
"An idea has no worth at all without believable characters to implement it; a plot without characters is like a tennis court without players. Daffy Duck is to a Buck Rogers story what John McEnroe was to tennis. Personality. That is the key, the drum, the fife. Forget the plot. Can you remember, or care to remember, the plot of any great comedy? Chaplin? Woody Allen? The Marx Brothers?"
- Tom and Jerry likewise rarely had anything resembling real stories, relying on wafer thin setups (i.e. Jerry is stealing a midnight snack, Jerry has Spike the Bulldog work as a bodyguard for him) and vignettes to accommodate the series fast paced slapstick and pantomime.
- Betty Boop: Most cartoons have a very thin plot line, simply intended to showcase wild surreal gags and catchy sing and dance numbers.
- This is how clip shows are justified on The Simpsons. For instance, Homer rents Paint Your Wagon one evening for the family, thinking it's going to be a classic Spaghetti western full of gunfights and cowboys (instead of a musical). Once the truth is uncovered, he grows irritated but Marge quickly points out that they actually quite enjoy singing and everyone's dialogue is turned melodic. The initial plot of disliking the movie is dropped and they simply start segueing into clips from previous episodes (with a home invasion subplot breaking in and out as needed).
- Celebrity Deathmatch sometimes has these to serve as a background for fights that don't really make sense on their own, or place fights in bizarre settings.
- "Time Travelling" has one about Johnny and Nick travelling through time to save Debbie from Napoleon, which is mostly there to justify Nick engaging in gladiatorial combat with a satyr, and Jack the Ripper trying to kill Sherlock Holmes.
- "In The Head Of Nicky Jr." has a subplot about Nicky Jr. hearing voices in his head, which serves only to justify John Cusack and John Malkovich having a match inside a human brain.
- All the fights of "Halloween Episode II" are organized via an Excuse Plot about the arena being attacked by zombies.
- "37th Annual Sci-Fi Night" has a subplot involving an alien invasion, which is primarily to justify having Nick Diamond fight and kill said alien.
- "A Celebrity Deathmatch Special Report" has a plot involving the mysterious destruction of the Deathmatch arena, which serves mainly to justify having Johnny and Nick fight Sam Donaldson, and Claire Danes against Whoopi Goldberg.
- A 3-episode plotline involving Nick getting put in a coma after being flung from the commentator booth, serves mainly to justify a) having other commentators replacing him, and b) a fight between Elvis and Jerry Garcia in a morphine-induced hallucination, Dean Martin fight Jerry Lewis in a tape from the '50s (thus introducing the "Battles from the Vault"), and a background for the later Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Jack Nicholson fight.
- "Celebrity Deathmatch The Motion Picture" has one involving the making of the titular movie, which primarily serves as a background for the Martin Scorsese vs. Oliver Stone and Cameron Diaz vs. Meryl Streep fights.
- "Halloween Episode I" has one about Nicky Jr. being demonically possessed which serves mainly as a background for The Undertaker to fight a demon.
- Other episodes, such as "Presented By Big Bull Beer", "The Missing Girl", "The Unknown Murderer", "Censoring Problems", "The Laser Pointer", "Robot Nicky", "The Prophecy", "Deathbowl 2000", "Turn on Your TV Day", "Suddenly Diamond", "Nick's Little Friend", and "Deathcon 2001", have plots designed for the purpose of setting up punchlines rather than whole fights.
- Surprisingly averted in "Congressional Hearings", in which the only fight takes a backseat to the plot involving Ted Kennedy trying to get Deathmatch cancelled.
- The G.I. Joe episode Once Upon A Joe blatantly lampshades its excuse plot of trying to keep the MacGuffin (explicitly named) from Cobra. The main draw is Shipwreck telling fairy tales starring Joes and Cobras to a young orphan, complete with a different, whimsical animation style.
- The Ultimate Spider-Man episode "Ultimate Deadpool" is a full-on exercise of cramming in as much fourth wall-breaking zaniness by Deadpool as it can; like the Joe example, the MacGuffin is explicitly named as such.
- The plot of Oh No! It's An Alien Invasion is that the kids' parents have been abducted by aliens. No explanation is given as to why the aliens are only abducting adults.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force used the plot of the main characters being detectives to trick Cartoon Network's executives into picking up the show.
- While not always true, a great many Family Guy episodes are effectively just a loose framework to allow for as many jokes as possible, many of which have nothing to actually do with the plot. One of the signature features of the show is abruptly cutting to random, non-sequitur jokes by having a character come with some kind of setup like "This is worse than the time that..."
- In a rare (especially for Western Animation) instance of this being oriented more toward action than comedy, most Samurai Jack plots are largely an excuse to get Jack in a punch-up with X opponent in Y setting. Until Season 5 came along, the show had very little emphasis on continuing plots or character dynamics; hell, for most of its run Aku was the closest thing Jack had to a supporting character.